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Living in a place like Willow Springs, it’s sorta easy to forget about time. Guess ‘cause the biggest thing it does is to bring about change and nothing much changes here but the seasons. And if we get a warm spring, a slow fall, and a light winter it don’t seem like even the seasons change much at all. Yeah, it could easily be one long summer here, with a few less leaves on some days, a few more flowers on others. It’s the same folks coming into the general store to pick up their supplies, the same group hitched up on chairs outside of Parris’s barbershop, the same heads leaving Reema’s all oiled up and curled. The smoke drifting up over the south woods from Dr. Buzzard’s still might as well be painted on a picture, it’s always there. Like the droning from his beehives out by Chevy’s Pass, the pounding of the ocean water against the east bluff, the creaking from the wooden slats on the bridge over The Sound: a still life. Four pictures would just about do it, one for each season, where you’d have to look real close to see a gray hair or so inching around some temples, a little extra roll starting over some belt buckles. But slow, real slow. So slow it’s like it’s not happening at all. Until it happens. Overnight, some say. Living here you can see how they’re right and they’re wrong. It’s all one night, one day – one season. Time don’t crawl and time don’t fly; time is still. You do with it what you want: roll it up, stretch it out, or here we just let it lie.


This passage falls right in the middle of the novel. Prior to this point in the story, George and Ophelia were throwing Ophelia’s diaphragm over the George Washington Bridge. The bridge scene was told from George’s point of view while the narration in this passage is third person omniscient. Directly after this passage, yet still sticking with the same narration, the story shifts to Bernice, her son, and the car she always drove him around in. Until George visits Ophelia’s grandmother, there are two distinct and very separate settings of this story; Willow Springs and New York. The paragraph above describes the concept of time in Willow Springs and reveals the island’s unchanging nature.

Critical Methodologies

By taking an archetypal critical approach to this passage we may be better able to understand the role that Willow Springs plays in the characters’ lives and what it represents in the novel. An archetype, according to psychologist Carl Jung, is an entity that contains traces of “repeated types of experience in the lives of very ancient ancestors which are inherited in the ‘collective unconscious’ of the human race and are expressed in myths, religion, [and] dreams…” (Kristi Siegel’s site). “Images such as crucifixion [are]...laden with meaning already when employed in a particular work.” (  By connecting the narrator's description of the movement of time, or seeming lack thereof, in Willow Springs to that of a location found in an older text that already has a firmly established meaning (i.e. Arcadia), we can draw parallels between the two locations and assign Willow Springs a role in the novel based on the connotations of the connected location.

Narratology is the study of narrative structure. We could take a narratological approach to this passage or to the novel as a whole. Narration plays an incredibly important part in Mama Day. However, in this passage specifically, narration is key. The section of the novel prior to this was in first person and the narration switched to third person for this passage. The narration of this passage allows the reader to fully understand the timelessness of Willow Springs without any biases from any characters.


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